Will we value the skills associated with Social Media like we do traditional literacies?

Children are using social media. Who is teaching them?

As a parent,  I see my own children (9,11) communicating online with anonymous friends during their Mindcraft episodes, Wii and Kinect games, Mathelectics and online forums. Often, I observe the server chats trying to picture who is on the other end, wondering if they are aware of networking safety, wondering if their parent, or teacher talks to them about network safety, about how to talk online vs. in private. 

 

While I am thrilled that we are having these discussions online and within our PLN, it continues to concern me greatly that our districts and public education policies continue to put very little emphasis on the teaching of social media as part of a literacy program. While it is discussed and modeled in various capacities around the districts, it continues to be done as extra or optional, rather then as a required aspect of our children’s learning, like we do with reading, writing and math. And yet-  it is the only literacy medium that can have serious personal safety consequences if it is used inappropriately.

I ask  – how is it possible that educators and leaders are addressing the skills associated with social media with students authentically, when so many of them are not trained to use it themselves?  Why is Social Media  NOT a required PD in most schools  (experienced teachers and leaders)  and why is it not mandatory (rather then optional) in many Pre-Service training colleges? 

As part of a media literacy presentation social media in primary classroom pdf that I am facilitating this week, I am discussing a few simple classroom strategies/lessons that address at least some of the skills associated with social media and communication.  My intention is to demonstrate that we do not need to be tech experts, nor do we need to have high end equipment.  In fact, some of the examples demonstrate that we can teach the skill (communication, audience, perspective, online participation, discussion, commenting, blogging, reacting) without the equipment.  Let’s help our colleagues, our leaders, our students (and parents) understand the impact of their digital footprints.

  1.   Paper Tweets to teach Social Media:  This post describes ways to engage students in various topics using tags through paper tweets. The intent is to model, encourage and practice using appropriate dialogue, addressing audience, voice and appropriate vocabulary in simple, clear sentences.
  2. Paper Blogging -Thanks to Rodd Lucier for his discussion on the use of Paper blogging. I think this strategy could be done in any school classroom or hallway, and especially to encourage Parents and community to contribute.  Take it even further and integrate VOICE notes on the bulletin board using Livescribe
  3. Interactive bulletin board – Social Media is about communication. Why not ask for input on classroom bulletin boards?  Make your room talk! Incorporate QR codes and have your boards change and adapt as you change the links.
  4. Creation of a FaceboardAt home, students create a poster of themselves, including information that they would be comfortable sharing publicly.  My son had this for an assignment during his Third Grade. Interestingly, several parents complained, flagging the assignment as “inappropriate”.
  5. Audience is Everything –  Have students write down a comment about a particular topic (ie: the movie they saw, something fun at recess……) and then have them change how they would state/phrase their comment depending on who can see the comment and who it is intended for (parent, friend, teacher, public…). This strategy could work for students in all grades (even adults).
  6. Storytelling (My Favourite example that I first learned from @dougpete and @mrspal) “A walk down Memory Lane” Students and parent go online to GOOGLE maps. Parent tells the child a story about his/her childhood by looking at the map. Child can retell the story to classmates. This could be tiered to different levels. Giving student/parent information on how to make a tiny url, students can mark down the URL, bring to school, and teacher prints off the place. Student writes down the story he/she was told from family member as if it were a blog post.
  7. Skype   @msolomonteacher suggests using Skype to help students learn social media skills. If internet is available, use Skype to meet another class, connect with other students across the country or the world.  Why not have students practice skype calls, oral language skills and presentation skills (online video conferencing can be intimidating!)
  8. BACK-CHANNELING @susan_watt  suggests using todaysmeet.com chat. Have the children make one comment (to start) about a read-aloud or a video.  Part 2 – take the words from the chat and make a Wordle from them! http://www.wordle.net
  9. @susan_watt suggests TypewithMe – another great way to use social media and practice communication in a moderated, supervised environment (http://typewith.me) pad. Create a creative thinking brainstorming challenge (e.g. What are all the things you could do with an empty pop can? – or something like that) and ask the students to add their ideas.
  10. WEB 2.O TOOLS: Bitstrips , Glogster, Voicethread are all examples of Web 2.0 tools that encourage interaction.  All of these programs are interactive allowing students and parents to comment and discuss within the program (social media) – and its moderated and supervised.
  11. COMMENTING: Storybird also encourages commenting within the program. @kathycassidy
  12. Have an Author’s Night at school. Students read their “published” work aloud to all parents. Then, have parents write comments on the last page of each student’s “book”. Thanks @kathycassidy for the suggestion!
  13. @kathycassidy notes that students can also comment on the work of their classmates in #11. What a great way for authentic communication in the online environment with a well trained educator to assist!
  14. RECORD IT! Another great idea from @kathycassidy – Record students reading or reading their writing or describing some other type of learning. Also record comments of classmates.

ANYMORE SUGGESTIONS? Consider adding to this collaborative document: Here

My “Top Ten” Voicethread applications

 VOICETHREAD IS A UNIVERSALLY DESIGNED TOOL ALLOWING EVERYONE TO CONTRIBUTE.

STUDENTS, TEACHERS AND COMMUNITY CAN USE ANY MEDIUM TO SHARE, DISCUSS, POST, REFLECT AND PRESENT. OPEN DOORS TO OUR LEARNERS!!

A couple reminders that might ease your mind about using this OPEN and FREE tool…..

* Voicethread provides tutorials, ideas, and examples. Give yourself some time to explore and PLAY

* Voicethread comments can be moderated by the owner

* Voicethreads can be public or private and can be shared with one or many people

* Voicethread tool is free and is accessible on computers, iPods and iPads

*Voicethread can be uploaded to a website or blog using an EMBED code.

* Voicethread has been around for about three years and there are MANY MANY resources out there

#1 – Parental/Community communication (My PERSONAL favourite)

  • Bring parent voice into the classroom: Add a Voicethread to your Classroom blog or website asking for parent ideas and thoughts about the topic you are studying.  For example: Upload a map, ask parents to talk about historical story of their family using the map (Ie: immigration, jobs, travel, climate, war, environment).
  • Parent input and perspective: Add Voicethread to District website asking for community input about a specific topic (ie: building of a new building, closure of schools, announcements of upcoming board meetings.
  • Community input on Board Meeting minutes:  Upload the minutes on voicethread allowing parents to use the voice, or video to make comments and express concerns, thoughts, ideas.
  • Parent-teacher communication:  Use the voice thread to  communicate with the teacher about student work. Make the Voicethread only public to you and the parent. The voice and video option creates a less intimidating situation as the parent can see you, hear you and understand the communication.

#2 – Assessment (Also my PERSONAL favourite)

Before a lesson or activity:

  • Diagnostic: Ask students to share what they already know about the topic using a prepared Voicethread.  This might help the teacher in the planning stage of the unit/theme and to identify student strengths and weaknesses.
  • Learning Goals and Criteria: Use the Voicethread to upload the learning criteria. The comment section will allow students to discuss the criteria and add, modify or change the criteria if needed. The use of the audio and video functions will help provide a more detailed example and rational behind the criteria that was developed.

During a lesson:

  • Ask Questions: Use the Voicethrad as a station in the room.  This could be done with a stand-alone computer or portable device (iPad, iPod). Students go to the Voicethread and ask questions (or listen to other questions) during work time.  Put up “sample” comments to help students know how to respond appropriately in audio.
  • Review/Test prep: Use the Voicethread to post questions that review the course content. Allow students to comment, respond and ask questions throughout the course. This would be helpful to students and parents during exam preparation.

After lesson, completed project, or assignment:

  • Reflection and Meta-cognition: Have students post their reflection, discussion and overall thoughts about the assignment or project that they handed in. Allow them to make self-assessments about their strengths, weaknesses and next steps.

After a lesson: Exit Card? Homework? Feedback?

  • Exit Card: Have a voicethread ready to go on the computer, portable device, or interactive whiteboard with a focused question relating to the goal of the lesson.

Research – gather data, information

  • Research Tool:  This could be meant for a small focus group or a larger group as a way to gather information about your topic.  Use the Voicethread to build on the questions each week.
  • Shared Leadership in department: Use the Voicethread to gather knowledge and skills from a variety of educators and leaders in the department.
  • Crowd Source:  This tool can be made public. Use the tool to crowd source your question and gather information from a larger network.

Feedback

  • Teacher – Student Feedback. DESCRIPTIVE, AUDIO FEEDBACK: Use the Voicethread to provide detailed descriptive feedback to the student. Upload a picture of the student work, use the pen/drawing function along with your Voice and add comments to the work for improvement. 

#3 Collaboration Tool

  • Classroom-to-Classroom: Use this tool to form a classroom partnership and focus student learning on a specific topic. Students can use the Threads to comment on each other’s ideas.

Examples: Upload art from a variety of classrooms or schools; Create joint stories about a topic, stories from a neighbourhood, a community.

Student-to-student: Peer mentorship. Students can partner on a Voicethread based on a book or an activity that they have been working on. Like a blog, they easily post pictures, video’s, and text . What if you had class partners from different places in the world?

    • School-to-school: District schools that partner on themes and activities (i.e.: sports, drama, music festivals, art) can use the Voicethreads to communicate information, seek information and advertise the events.
    • Division or Department Planning: Use the Voicethread in partnership with a blog, wiki, or website to plan, discuss and develop collaborative ideas. Take it further and use Voicethread to collaborate with OTHER DEPARTMENTS AND DIVISIONS.

CHECK OUT THIS VOICETHREAD…A Couple of years old, but still going strong. Why are you using a PLN to support your learning? How has twitter impacted your professional development?

#4 Newsletters

      • Classroom News: Each week, copy/paste your newsletter to a classroom Voicethread. This allows the teacher to make comments and reminders directly on the VT as well as having students and parents comment when needed.
      • School News: Post news, questions and ideas with  a Voicethread  to the community.
      • English Language Learners: Use the Voicethread to extend written and spoken words to students and families that speak other languages. Make use of student, parent or district translators when needed.
      • Interactive: Make the newsletter interactive and accessible through the use of audio, video and text together.

#5 School Announcements

      • Whole school announcements:  Have students record their voice, text, or video of a school announcement. The announcement could be relayed during the morning announcements
      • Class announcements: Use a VT to announce upcoming events in the classroom.

#6 Instruction

      • Post-Instruction: Add a video of yourself (use the smart recorder, or video camera) teaching the lesson and post it on the Voicethread for students to review if needed. The collaborative nature of the voicethread allows students to ask questions and make comments based on the lesson that was posted.  
      • Pre-Instruction: Add a video, text, image or audio that focuses on follow-up lessons. This will help students move ahead as needed. Integrate this with a Flipped Classroom lesson.
      • Review of Content: Use the Voicethread to post the notes from each lesson.  At the end of the unit, the Voicethread will include notes from every lesson. This will help student with review for test, exam or culminating activity.

#7 Student Work/ Student products

      • Student Work: Allow student to hand in their assignment using a voicethread. Use the audio comment tool for student to give a reflection and summary about their work.
      • Differentiated Instruction:  Use the audio feature to allow students to SPEAK their answers rather then requiring written work.  This allows students to  be more confident when explaining their work, images or uploaded videos.

#8 English Language Learners:

      •  Use the Voicethread to post audio and video of a lesson, activity or classroom/school information in a variety of languages and formats.

#9 Differentiate Instruction:

      •  Product: Allow student to use their Voice or Video to demonstrate their learning instead of the traditional “text based” response.
      • Process: Use the Voicethread to provide a varied instruction using your voice and video. Information about upcoming assignments, tests, and events can be made in a variety of mediums. DECREASE PAPER that you are sending home.

#10 Student Leadership

      • Student-Created –  Student – driven Voicethreads: Students from a lower (or higher) grade, division or school to present information about a topic. Students from another class or division are to respond and give feedback.

 

 

Paper Tweets – Teaching Social Media

Try the activity with your own students – with PARENTS….with TEACHERS…with ADMINISTRATORS…..with FACULTY members. Try with any type of Social Network. PRACTICE FIRST before going live. Use what is comfortable for them FIRST.

“Paper Tweets”

1)   Use a TAG and have students search it. Tags are generally safe and help build a network based on certain topics or themes. IE: #edchat #scichat #comments4kids…..

2)   Hand out strips of coloured paper and have them RETWEET (tell them to simply copy down the exact tweet) on the page. Tell them that they are sharing the tweet because they found it interesting and worthy for others to see it. Tell them they will share it on a public bulletin board in the hallway. Before posting…… Discussion…..

3)   Redistribute the paper tweets (so that they get one that the didn’t write). On another paper  strip, have them REPLY to the paper tweet, using as few words as possible, but making a statement, a reflection or a thought about it. DISCUSS – how do we say “Thank You” online?  What do people want to hear? What does good sharing look like? How do we give credit when credit is due? What is a tag?

Social Networking needs to be taught.

For most of us, we’ve learned the “how” from our friends and if we were lucky and our choices led us to a ‘tech type’ ed conference, we learned from someone who actually knew what they were talking about. Some of us might even think that it is “silly” that such a skill needs to be taught. BUT IT DOES.

Over the last few years we have learned that there are so many wonderful uses for networking. We have learned that PEOPLE are the best resources and that our NETWORKS let us share, collaborate, learn and always be current (really current). Our networks keep us AWARE and give us PERSPECTIVES from so many people.

BUT IT IS COMPLICATED. There are SOCIAL SKILLS attached. Safety Skills to be learned. Tips and Tricks that save time and improve practice. Ways to leverage the best people, sources, and lists. 

Recently, I asked my pre-service students (Teacher Education) who average between the ages of 23-25 (give or take) who uses Facebook. 98% indicated that they did. I asked them who taught them.

None of them said, “teacher”.

Some of them said, “themselves”.

Most of them said,  “friend”.

When introducing them to Twitter (very few – almost none had it)  as part of my class, they were somewhat stunned since social networking had never been part of formal education before.

Like any other skill – scaffolding came in very handy – especially when using public learning environments like twitter.

Starting on paper made it safe and helped them understand what it meant to ReTweet or Reply. Having to write it down made them really think about what they were doing rather then just pressing the button.

 

Essential Tech Tools for NEW and Experienced Educators

What am I introducing to New Teachers as Essentials? While I focus heavily on the TPACK framework during teaching, here are a few of the TECHNOLOGY TOOLS/KNOWLEDGE that my course (s)  includes:

In my current role as a Pre-Service Instructor at Brock University, I have small window of opportunity to introduce (and model) to new teachers to 21st Century Education.The following sites, and resources are what I consider to be the essentials of 21st Century tools (although there are many many more). These are  my “I can’t live without” tech tools as learner and teacher.  I am listing the best time-saving, collaborative, and integrated tools around! So open up your book marking tool, your Smartpen, or your favourite note taking device and save them for later, because you will need them to survive in the fast pace of 21st Century learning.

Some tools are new for me (in 2011) and some are ones that have become part of my toolbox for a few years now 
– but ALL valuable…

1) Google Plus. Pedagogically, I use it very differently from Twitter and Facebook, (which are also essential tools in the learning environment). When Google Plus came out in Beta, I had a chance to explore (just a bit). But I didn’t see the full potential until it was fully released and I could create circles for each of my classes and professional circles.

I see four major uses and benefits to the use of Google+ as an instructional tool:

 

* Allows for pre and post-teaching in both OPEN and CLOSED environments
* Allows for distributed leadership within the class (students are adding information, questions and discussions as well as the teacher)
* Allows for both synchronous and asynchronous learning
* Allows for teacher/student/group meetings (using Google Hang-outs)

2) IFTT http://ifttt.com/

With so many Social Media tools – all with a variety of purposes, cross posting can be a bit time consuming and not very efficient. With this AMAZING resource, I can create recipes with my Web resources. IF I favourite a video on Youtube, THEN tweet it out. This program helps me stay in control of my digital footprint, extend my network and share more dynamically.

 

3) GoogleSites – Free, Easy, Collaborative
It’s never been so easy to create a website – Anyone can do it.  This is where we discuss BLENDED LEARNING.
2011 was the year of  GoogleSites for me. I present at many conference across North America as well as teach full-time for the Faculty of Education at Brock University, and rarely do I use PowerPoint when I can use a collaborative resource like Google Sites to present my material and invite participants to use, edit, share and maintain the resource. Sustainable, collaborative and organic. BEAUTIFUL.
For a major assignment in my Intermediate/Senior Pre-service Technology class, all students were to create a Google Site as a way for them to practice teaching in a blended learning environment. There is no more, “I don’t know how”. The resource is straightforward and many tutorials are found on line. So get started!!

http://eh-trigiani.blogspot.com/2011/12/weighing-and-of-google-sites.html
https://sites.google.com/site/shailjaguelph/

4) Be your own News CURATOR
Paper.li: My twitter stream often leads me to a variety of “Paper.li” news items, all with specific topics. One of my favourites is from Doug Peterson who curates this Ontario Educators News source: http://paper.li/dougpete/ontario-educators
Scoopit: Another News curator that allows me to bookmark sites, add them to a specific Scoopit topic and then share it – in magazine format. Here is an example of a topic on Differentiated Instruction: http://www.scoop.it/t/differentiation-teaching-learning- TRY IT! A fantastic way to collect information for your students, your colleagues, your staff and your PLN (Professional Learning Network)

 

5) Livescribe SMARTPEN
The tools allows teachers to add audio to paper notes (seems like magic). Students simply touch the ink and can hear what the teacher said at that moment. So many uses with ELL, and LD students. Teachers can post Livescribe course notes on a website for pre/post learning. So many uses with students at all levels and abilities.
MY entire GRAD studies are on ONE Livescribe Smartpen, accessible in audio, paper format, and interactive on my computer. I can share my audio/interactive notes using Google, Everynote, or  in an audio enabled PDF. YEP – MAGIC. 
http://livewithlivescribe.edublogs.org/
http://www.smartpencentral.com/
http://www.livescribek12.com/

6) Livebinders
What an incredible resource to help students and teachers create digital binders that can be shared. Parent Resource binder? Student created binder? Math Resource binder? Student project binder? The possibilities are endless. I first introduced this to one of my students as an accommodation to help her organize her course load, links and information.
http://www.livebinders.com/welcome?mycat=ED&type=category
ipad in schools livebinder: http://www.livebinders.com/play/play_or_edit?id=26195

7) Google Documents and Collections

Using Google Docs with my students is ALWAYS a hit. When they see the magic in shared learning and collaboration they are unstoppable – like I was.
This year, I used Google COLLECTIONS in a few new ways. Creating a class collection and then adding sub-collections with each student and then sharing their collection with them allowed me to hand in personalized assignments, rubrics which are co-created and co-assessed. Very handy tool.

 

 

8) GOOGLE BLOGGER

First day of class – whether it be a grade six class, or a pre-service education class – I introduce blogging. People blog for different purposes. What I emphasis to those NEW to it – is to blog for REFLECTION, for writing practice, for ON-GOING LEARNING, and for SHARING. I emphasis to new bloggers – USE YOUR VOICE. BE VULNERABLE. RISK YOUR OPINION. ASK QUESTIONS AND MAKE IT INTERACTIVE.

Teachers should be very  AWARE of AUDIENCE.Have two blogs – one for personal reflection and professional sharing and one for classroom instruction and blended learning. Different purposes and different audiences.

9) Delicious Bookmarking – NO MORE “JUST GOOGLE IT!!”
http://delicious.com/zoebraniganpipe/
A tool that I cannot live with out. How incredibly awesome is it that I can collect my links and resources using an online tool and share my collection with others. Even better, I can access other teacher’s bookmarks too – ANYTIME, ANYPLACE, ANY DEVICE.

 

 

10) Jing – Sharing isn’t just text.

Jing is a screen capture tool. I use it everyday for quick screen captures, tutorials, and for video and audio instructions. I used it for this post.

 

 

It is hard to stop at  ten. However, the biggest complaint I get is that there are TOO MANY TOOLS, SITES and RESOURCES. My suggestion to new and experienced teachers is to ALWAYS try it first for themselves. Play with it, get comfortable, learn it. Then integrate it into your classroom lessons.

Thanks for reading – Zoe

Parent Engagement and Social Media

Like many of my fellow Edu-bloggers, my posts often reflect both my parent and teacher perspective. As a parent,  I worry that my children, while in school,  are not experiencing the realities that technologies offers in the real world. As a parent, I worry that my children are being limited at school and are not accessing their full potential due to both the lack of infrastructure in schools, as well as the lack of teacher education around the use of social media tools as educational resources and literacies. As a teacher, my worry for my students is mostly about online safety (although I also worry that we are missing a big opportunity to prioritize a medium that has become dominant for most of our children). I know that my students are using social media the moment school ends (Facebook, Twitter, texting, MMORPG’s…. ).
But who is teaching these skills? Most schools are not explicitly teaching online social media skills to students. If they are, it is taught as a lesson or unit (ie: cyber bullying) and not practiced authentically- as part of daily learning and socializing. So, if schools are not teaching them – are parents? Some are. Some want to. Some are not sure what to teach, because they don’t know it themselves. Mostly, kids are teaching themselves and each other. I am not comfortable with that. And so, I am committed to helping other parents understand their tech savvy kids – so that they are better equipped to support and direct them – if and when their child is confronted with a tough online situation. I also want parents to see the beauty in the web. It is not just a “dangerous” place, but a place for creativity, design, collaboration, sharing and learning. The following resource was part of a presentation for a group of parents at the Waterloo District School Board, also committed to better understanding their tech savvy kid.

Teachers Leading Teachers

These are a just few words that come to mind when I reflect on how I felt as I toured the hundreds of projects that were on display at the #TLLP2011 summit this past weekend in Toronto, Ontario. What an honour!

Together, teachers gathered from across Ontario’s 72 District school boards – all grades, disciplines, subject levels, departments and from across a diverse province of French and English learners, Aboriginal communities and Gay and Lesbian groups to share insights, perspectives, research and best practice. If the passion and energy of these leaders could have been bottled up and harnessed for power, I am certain that it would be enough power to get us through the next hundred years.

SEWATAHON’ SATAT PROJECT  (SEWATAHON’SATAT = “LISTEN” in Mohawk/Haudensonee language

The TLLP is a joint venture between the Ontario Teacher Federation and the Ontario Ministry of Education and provides an opportunity, funding and support for teachers to engage in leadership initiatives within their schools and districts.

Although throughout the year we used an online network to share our progress, I don’t think that any of us were prepared for the magnitude of depth and detail that was on show at the summit.

As a participant and lead learner of the TLLP project, with my team -we too had a display that focused on a year long project that investigated the use of sound and ink and its impact on learning and we documented our learning on a collaborative blog called, “livewithlivescribe”. Being able to share and discuss our projects with other teachers across our province was incredibly empowering.

As I toured the showcase, it was hard not to feel overwhelmed with emotion. Over and over and over, I heard teachers talk about how their project helped engage their students. I heard teachers talk about how their project put confidence in the students, how their project provided opportunity for students, how their project gave hope to students. I tried to imagine how many students were impacted by the initiatives in the room. As one teacher excitedly explained to me, “we only thought, this project would effect the 10 people in our school that joined, but over 30 teachers were ultimately involved”. He repeated with a huge smile, “30 teachers”. I smiled when he said that and pointed out to him the people in the room. “Your project will impact 100’s of teachers”, I said with a lump in my throat just imagining how many children’s lives would be touched.

 

Gaming and learning – are they connected?

In 2010, I began experimenting with gaming in my classroom.

In my Grade Six classroom, ‘play’ wasn’t just about learning the facts and materials, but about creating an environment where they were most comfortable.  Using Wii Olympics to have students virtually play participate in Luge or skiing events and then write down, sort, compare and analyze their scores helped them see an authentic reason why we sort data. Watching the little JK students exercise for 15 minutes a day using Wii Fit or Wii Sports (on those freezing cold mornings) was fascinating.  Using NikeRemote on our shoes, we used game to track distances when we ran 3 times per week to reach our marathon goal. I was only beginning to discover the potential for gaming and learning. Connecting our games with classrooms across the world was the most fun. Skype spelling and math games was an awesome way to end our week. For me it really isn’t about the game itself, but about engaging my students. They identified with gaming. It was my way to capture them, when we couldn’t explore outside, or build ‘hands-on’.

Both Zack and Shawn, future TechEd leaders from Brock University (also students of mine) contemplate educational theories and structures by examining the idea of gamification of learning.  In his blog, Zach wonders,

“Imagine if we could give students a lesson they could take home and play? If they enjoyed the lesson they would be more apt to practice the material. They could share it with friends and interact with people in their class online”.

Shawn then makes a profound realization,

“It occurs to me now that my prejudice towards gaming was based on the belief that games were based solely on fun, and so in turn their educational usefulness must be minimal. How silly that was to assume that kids have to feel or even know that they’re being taught in order to learn something”.

Shawn and Zack ‘s posts compelled me to ask my two boys (ages 9 and 11)  if they saw any educational value in games (minecraft, wii, kinect) in the classroom or for their own learning. Their answer: No way. It is just for fun.

They have not made the connection between learning and play. I wonder if their definition of “learning” comes from their short experience with an established deep rooted system that still sees learning in a very traditional way. Sitting at a desk, direct instruction, preparing for tests, group activities, writing tests, memorizing facts, studying…

And yet, on this very Saturday morning, as I read through the blog posts, my eyes wonder. I watch my boys plant crops near water, discussing a location that optimisms sun. I listen to them talk about the best way to ‘make’ paper so they can create books to put on the shelves that they created for the school that they designed. I listen to them talk about the formula needed to make ‘ink’ for their pens…….and then I spy, as they use they internet to find out facts about ink, paper mills and sugar. Then my 9 year old says…lets make a cake. They were using Minecraft.
My eyes wonder to their unopened packpacks. I wonder, what homework they have.

But, as they see it…it is play, not learning. So how do we connect the two? I think that both Shawn and Zack clearly make the point that there may be link between learning and engagement. But, maybe its something more? Do these games also help us with our critical senses? Do they encourage us to talk and problem solve? Do they encourage more divergent ways of thinking?

I certainly do not fully understand the impact that gaming is having on my own children, but by reading about the projects and innovations that a few teachers are ‘action’ researching, my confidence in the use of the methods has definitely heightened.

Joel Levin, a high school teacher discusses his first days of school: – http://minecraftteacher.net/

So, instead, for the first class we’ll talk about:
What kind of world they will want to play in.
What kind of gaming experience they desire and what they’d like to accomplish.
And I’ll try to figure out what other auxiliary projects they want to try while playing the game. Such as writing projects, making Let’s Play videos, modding the game… or who knows! I’m sure they will surprise me!

It is very reassuring that in spite of tradition and set curriculum, teachers are still finding ways to incorporate new mediums into the classroom. Thank you Shawn and Zack for deepening my thinking on this issue.

 

 

New Teachers ‘…the times they are a-changin’

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’. (Bob Dylan, 1964)

There is a new group of teachers in town. For the next eight months, at Brock University in Hamilton, Ontario,  these teachers will learn and practice what it truly means to teach in the 21st Century. Nope. This doesn’t mean they will graduate as Information Technology Specialists. Nor does it mean that they will be computer programmers, or expert gamers, or trained ‘techies’.

What it means, is that they will truly understand how to work in a networked world, that doesn’t have the limits of walls, or buildings. They will learn why relationships, equity, environment and community are above and beyond anything in the learning model. They will practice a distributed leadership model by sharing their skills and knowledge across their program, their internship schools, and within the wider global community.  These new teachers will blog – not to just deliver information, but to share their learning, to reflect and to lead in an open and transparent way. Shawn, one Pre-service Teachers, explains,

“I have never integrated myself into a project of many people (strangers, really, though only for a short while) working collectively towards a goal larger than themselves. The fact of that now amazes me, because that is what 21st technology is all about. And with that realization, I find I’ve been incorrectly viewing new technology as an end in itself, and not the means with which I can make a contribution in “real life.” Touch screens, smartboards and live feeds are tremendous advancements, but they’re usefulness goes so much deeper then simple fodder for gadget hounds like myself. As a teacher, I am going to have to get very used to linking my life collectively with groups, and that is the first and easily the most important lesson this cohort has given me thus far.

A FEW GUIDING PRINCIPLES as we facilitate this journey of Teacher Education:

1. ALWAYS  participate in a  Professional Learning Network, be genorous and mentor others:

Virtual Associate Mentors/Teachers  have welcomed this cohort with arms wide open into an established professional learning network. Incredible demonstration of generosity of skill and time.

 

2. ALWAYS demonstrate that good teaching means learning together in a variety of ways, with a variety of tools.

Teacher Candidates using the Livescribe pen to make audio and digital ink recordings to capture their thoughts about Professional Teaching Standards. They ask, “What does Society expect from its teachers? They explore a variety of mediums – text, audio and digital as a way to express their thoughts and as a method to share with others.

 

3. ALWAYS demonstrate that good teaching means facilitating a SAFE, CARING, and EQUITABLE environment where everyone can learn using a variety of skills, and talents.

Teacher Candidates explore symbols in learning. Here, they personalize rocks in a deliberate effort to begin the process of relationship building. They begin to understand the power of CREATIVITY and ARTS when working within a diverse group.

 

4. ALWAYS collaborate and share

Teacher Candidates gasp as they see the power of co-creating for the FIRST time. They explore the content and pedagogy that is modeled to them and they relate this  to their own journey as Teacher Education students through the TPACK framework.

 

5. ALWAYS be open to learning new skills and new methods of learning and teaching.

All Teacher Candidates are required to take an Technology in Education course which provides them with an opportunity to explore a variety of new teaching tools. They work in classrooms with integrated Front Row Audio systems, Smartboards, Wireless internet. They are encouraged to bring in their own devices. They have access and can sign out projectors, iPods, Livescribes and Video Cameras. They are provided with class time to learn web 2.0 tools and they use blogs and podcasts to share their learning.

 

I find myself in complete awe of all of this. Is it really happening? Is this the change we need?

New Knowledge in the Digital Age

IMG_0643I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how Knowledge is changing in the digital age.  With all the amazing resources, tools, connections, community information, mediums, people -it really all comes down to access, information and data. The World Wide Web has allowed us to access people, places and community – and how we are handling the abundant sources of information and data – which is changing how we are thinking and learning. I wonder how this is changing how we are learning literacy itself? Information is constantly being reconstructed and reshaped – in real time through combinations of mediums and perspectives and links and ideas. Our knowledge is being accessed, shared, given by anyone – adults to children and children to adults.

I was given a book to read by my thesis supervisor a couple of months ago and to be honest, I left it sitting on my desk because I wasn’t sure how relevant the information would be with a publishing date of 2003. But, I couldn’t resist to read a few chapters and ultimately got pulled all the way in.

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2003). New literacies: changing knowledge and classroom learning. Buckingham [England: Open University Press.

While these authors discuss a variety of perspectives, (historically and culturally) about the development of literacy in education, what resonated most for me is their discussion that “schools (today) operate on the belief that knowing, thinking, believing are located within the individual, and that knowledge is seen in the final analysis as a private possession and is examined, and accredited accordingly”. Here they ask, “Have schools operated to regulate scarcity of credentialed achievement – including allocations of literacy, ‘success’?”. It was this idea that began their critical reflection and journey of what literacy really is today. Does the demonstration of individual knowledge, on the spot, tell our true level of literacy for each individual? Is literacy for an individual carrying out on something that already exists? Today, knowledge and information are accessed, shared, discussed, reshaped, redesigned, edited, re-edited, co-edited and so on, in public spaces -in collaborative spaces – spaces where questions and inquiry are encouraged. Yet, even so, these authors remind us that “knowledge is seen in the final analysis as private”, based on a mindset that was developed long ago.

Eight years ago, even before Facebook and Twitter, these authors were questioning how we define knowledge and literacy in the digital age and how we are constructing and organizing our schools as a result.

I am left uneasy with the thought that still, even with all the research, books, articles, blogs, and discussions that tell us our society is now depending on a problem-solver generation that can work collaboratively and seek out ideas globally -is evaluated on individual performance and often without access to tools such as networks and people. Unless it is individually demonstrated, is it cheating? It really is in the mindset. When will the mindset change I wonder.
Thoughts?

Who is your Doug Peterson?

IMG_3488A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Doug Peterson (AKA @dougpete, AKA yoda <my master>) in Windsor, Ontario. It may have appeared that the purpose of the visit was to ‘Faceoff at Maxwell School”. But the real purpose was to connect face to face with a colleague and friend that has truly impacted my professional growth by inspiring and teaching me to think outside the box and challenge me in so many ways –to be authentic, creative and innovating in my teaching and learning.

My visit with Doug has truly made me reflect about a dichotomy of learning that I have been thinking about and I ask, why has this learning community – this PLN –  had such a strong impact on my relationships within my workplace (the brick and mortar workplace)? Have I become more distant and less social and even less collaborative? Does it matter? Is it just that our learning spaces are changing and that I am adapting?

In fact, this is a dichotomy that I struggle with in a profession where collaboration and team work are key ingredients to success. On one hand, my organization tells me who to collaborate with, when to collaborate, how to collaborate and what to collaborate about – but most important – to be there in person. Choice is rarely an option. I admit – this has resulted in disengagement. I wish it hasn’t. But, on the other hand what I have discovered through learning networks is so incredibly empowering. I have become fully engaged and inspired by learners (YOU) and educators (yes, you again) across the world that challenge me and engage me, EVERYDAY to be creative and critical at the same time.
Doug Peterson is a perfect example of a colleague that has helped me improve my practice and yet lives over 400km’s away.  In spending these days, (in person) with Doug -as we toured schools and drove across the countryside,  Doug explained to me the importance of authenticity, 

“We need to use the tools and strategies ourselves first and tell our stories, that’s what makes us connect to our students”.

Perhaps it is this very statement that has caused such a struggle for me–  and so I asked Doug, “How do I be fully engaged within buildings that I work in, while also embracing these new digital coaching platforms?” Doug has been a leader, a coach and a mentor and to him, distance or time zones or buildings is not essential when developing supportive learning communities or learning spaces. It is simply about the people and their choices.  I am not sure if it really matters whether or not Doug works in my immediate building, or collaborates and coaches from a distance. I am not sure it really matters if  my learning and professional development and growth happens in networked environments vs brick and mortar – as long as the learning a growth happens, builds capacity for others, and is sustainable.  I wonder how long it will take our organizations to embrace the idea of choice and customization when developing our PLC’s. Who is your Doug Peterson?